Linux and other Unix-like operating systems use the term “swap” to describe both the act of moving memory pages between RAM and disk, and the region of a disk the pages are stored on. It is common to use a whole partition of a hard disk for swapping. However, with the 2.6 Linux kernel, swap files are just as fast as swap partitions, although Red Hat recommends using a swap partition. The administrative flexibility of swap files can outweigh the other advantages of swap partitions. However, swap files, like any and all files within a filesystem, can and do become fragmented over time depending on the configuration of a hard disk; swap partitions, in contrast, do not, as they are partitions.
Linux supports using a virtually unlimited number of swapping devices, each of which can be assigned a priority. When the operating system needs to swap pages out of physical memory, it uses the highest-priority device with free space. If multiple devices are assigned the same priority, they are used in a fashion similar to level 0 RAID arrangements. This provides improved performance as long as the devices can be accessed efficiently in parallel. Therefore, care should be taken assigning the priorities. For example, swaps located on the same physical disk should not be used in parallel, but in order ranging from the fastest to the slowest (i.e.: the fastest having the highest priority).